Friday, 30 November 2012

Labelling artists - Eleanor Turney article

Another application to fill in raises another dilemma - how do I describe what stage of my career I am at?
early career, emerging, young?

Do I want to be pigeonholed into such a category? Who is this classification useful for? What do these terms mean? How will the description affect what people think of my work and of my practice?

Eleanor Turney  writes about these topics in her article, written for the Guardian:

Young, emerging or ready? For early career artists, it's all in the labelling

The clash between creative work and bureaucracy is always going to present problems, but it's easy to see why those handing out money need systems with transparent criteria. This is a perennial issue in the arts world, and more acute now as everyone scraps for less and less money. One recent focus for argument had been schemes that support 'young' or 'emerging' talent. But are these criteria useful, and if so, for whom? And are labels that might be useful to funders and marketers also useful for the artists to whom they are applied?

Age limits pose particular problems: when Arts Council England (ACE) announced its Creative Employment Programme, led by the National Skills Academy, to support up to 6,500 new apprenticeships and paid internships, instead of universal approbation there were numerous complaints that it had an age cut-off (24 years old).

For myriad reasons (family pressure, the need to pay the rent, changing interests) many people don't get their first job in the arts until they're older. They are then competing with younger graduates and those who can afford to take up internships, but are ineligible for some streams of support, including ACE's Creative Employment Programme and some of the opportunities offered by another big supporter of young people in the arts, IdeasTap. So is this unfair?

Peter de Haan, chairman of IdeasTap spells it out clearly enough: "If you look at the unemployment stats, it's clearly young people, especially aged 16-25, who are in the most need of support. My experience as a philanthropist has taught me that if you want to make a real difference you need to focus that support."

Stephen Fewell, chair of JMK Trust (which bestows the £25,000 JMK Young Directors' Award, available to under-30s) also says: "In the current financial climate, looking at the employment prospects for young people leaving education, I lose no sleep over youth being an appropriate criterion for support."

However, de Haan explains that although IdeasTap initially focused on 16-25 year-olds, "we saw a big increase in members aged 25-30 who needed support to kick off their careers". John Garfield-Roberts, an actor/director, worries that graduates of schemes for young artists find themselves "at the bottom of a very big pile, with little or no support to guide them through the next stage of their career".

Since those starting out can be of any age, maybe it makes sense to replace 'young' with 'emerging' – there are a number of schemes run by ACE alone that cater to emerging talent, including the Artists International Development Fund, Music Industry Talent Development Fund (which will announce its first recipients in early 2013), and, of course, Grants for the Arts.

Unfortunately, 'emerging' is even more nebulous a term than 'young', which can be confirmed by a date of birth on an application form. It means different things in different artforms and to different funding bodies. Old Vic New Voices artistic director Steve Winter explains that they "prefer to use the term 'emerging' because the connection between the artists we work with is the stage they are at in their careers within this industry, rather than their age".

Freelance journalist and theatre critic Andrew Haydon says, half-jokingly, that "the definition of 'emerging' is anyone who still has to apply for funding themselves," which applies to individual artists and to those organisations or companies that have not achieved regular funding. Becoming an NPO (National Portfolio Organisation) is not, of course, the only definition of success, but it does suggest a recognition that your work is ready for an audience. Jake Orr, artistic director of A Younger Theatre, is more equivocal: "Emerging can be anyone, but is currently thought to be young, and this is something that needs to shift. They're two very different ideas that need to be kept separate."

Even ACE does not have a singular definition of 'emerging'. However, the commonalities are that "the artist will have reached a critical moment in their career development, and will require a particular kind of support in order to maximise their potential and to propel them into the next phase of their development." ACE gives the following examples of what might define an emerging artist: recently being taken on by an agent, label, publisher, dealer or offered development opportunities by an NPO or sector agency; beginning to perform or have work performed or exhibited professionally; working in entry level roles in museums or galleries.

The labels 'young' and 'emerging' can also be problematic for artists themselves. 'Young' emphasises our fetishisation of youth and precocity. Calling someone 'emerging' suggests something unformed – something in-process but not yet producing work to which we should be paying attention. It highlights inexperience. Freelance producer Rowan Rutter makes sense when she says that "the word I personally use is 'ready' – am I READY for this project, for this responsibility, for this story, for these artists, for this money?"

Other people don't like either terms, especially from a marketing point of view. Tim Wood, communications manager of The Place explains: "Almost all the work we promote is by young and/or emerging artists. But these are utterly unhelpful labels for audiences. Arts marketing seems to be fighting a losing battle against vaguely applied adjectives."
John Garfield-Roberts agrees: "Tags and labels have always been dangerous. Perfect for box ticking and graphs but they provide very little actual life value." One tweeter suggested that 'emerging' begs to be followed with 'turd' – they would prefer 'early career'. Again, this can be problematic because it suggests that careers are linear and that everyone who wants to work in the arts wants to make it their career.

Ultimately, let's hope that the people with the money (funders or audiences) are intelligent and clued-up enough to make decisions about the kind of work they want to support, regardless of the age or career stage of the artist. These terms can be helpful in some ways, but what we should really care about is the quality of the work. As Rutter says: "Every time I hear 'emerging' I think about an ugly caterpillar-butterfly scenario. And let's face it, there are plenty of 'emerged' caterpillars in this business."

Eleanor Turney is a freelance journalist, editor and copywriter, currently working part-time for the Poetry Society – follow her on Twitter @eleanorturney

Tuesday, 20 November 2012

Start the Week - BBC Radio 4 - Art and Design with Antony Gormley, Christopher Frayling, Sarah Teasley and Ron Arad

Andrew Marr explores how Britain trains the artists and designers of the future.

Christopher Frayling and Sarah Teasley celebrate the 175th anniversary of the Royal College of Art, the world's oldest art and design school.

But one of its former teachers, the industrial designer Ron Arad argues for a broader arts education which doesn't split sculpture from painting, architecture from design.

And the artist Antony Gormley redefines the limits of sculpture and building.

Monday, 19 November 2012

Work not Play campaign by Musicians Union

In light of the recent campaign by artists for fair rates of pay (exhibition fees) and the general lack of confidence in Creative Scotland, it is worth reminding ourselves that we are not operating in isolation, and that other creative fields are being effected.

The Musicians Union have an interesting campaign going called 'Work not Play'.

  Musicians' Union Work Not Play

The Musicians Union are reminding people that 'this is not a hobby - it's a profession' and support fair pay for professional musicians.

For more information please visit

Wednesday, 14 November 2012

Southblock Artists Open Studios - 1st and 2nd of December 2012

Once again I will be opening the doors of my studio (312) to the public as I am participating in the Southblock Artists Open Studios event at the beginning of December. A wide range of artists based at Southblock (64 Osborne Street, Glasgow) are taking part, selling work to suit all tastes and budgets.

Please come along and see what I have been creating / am working on!

Stuck for ideas for Christmas presents? How about buying some art from local artists?

Tuesday, 13 November 2012


“Curiosity about life in all of its aspects, I think, is still the secret of great creative people.”
- Leo Burnett

Saturday, 10 November 2012

'Changin' Scotland

Unfortunately I was unable to attend the latest event organised by AHM, namely, 'Changin' Scotland – The Role of the Arts, Culture and Identity in Scotland' in Ullapool, 2-4 November 2012. Thankfully Richard Taylor has written a comprehensive report on the conference.

'Changin' Scotland – The Role of the Arts, Culture and Identity in Scotland' looked at how artists and others can influence public policy.
By: Richard Taylor

Introduced by writer and commentator Gerry Hassan and Highlands and Islands MSP Jean Urquhart, 'Changin' Scotland – The Role of the Arts, Culture and Identity in Scotland' took a 'Yes' campaign slant on how Scottish cultural identity could help educate public opinion on Scotland’s independence referendum in 2014.

The conference was organised by artists and facilitators AHM (Sam Ainsley, David Harding and Sandy Moffat), who in 2011 produced the State of Play – Art and Culture in Scotland Today symposia. In their opening session, and in light of having attended the open public meeting at Glasgow's Tramway on October 31 which addressed the need for change at funding body Creative Scotland, AHM asked: "How do artists and those involved in the arts change public policy?"

Further sessions followed over a full day on the Saturday, with a screening of 'Brigadoon' in the evening, and two morning sessions on the Sunday. Representatives of Scotland’s cultural sector presented their ideas, followed by open discussion facilitated by AHM. The role of cultural action as a stimulus for social transformation and political change was discussed in terms of national institutions, such as the Royal Scottish Academy, the role of Creative Scotland, and events in recent Scottish arts history such as 'Windfall 91', a seminal artist-led exhibition in Glasgow involving Scottish and European artists. All sessions were visually recorded through drawing by artist Emily Wilkinson.

There was strong support for Scottish independence throughout the three days. Artists such as Jim Mooney and Roderick Buchanan, art historians, politicians, poets and literary figures such as Janet Paisley and Alan Bissett, as well as former representatives of what was the Scottish Arts Council, including Sam Ainsley and Lindsay Gordon, put forward arguments that harkened to late '70s Scottish nationalism and its influence in the arts in the '80s and '90s. Creative Scotland was also scrutinised on its dismantling of the specialist voice of artists at board level.

Speakers from the visual arts sector included Malcolm Maclean, former CEO of Proiseact nan Ealan (the Gaelic Arts Agency); Will Maclean (RSA), former Senior Research Fellow and tutor at Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art and Design; Craig Richardson, Professor of Fine Art, Northumbria University; novelist, journalist and filmmaker Ewan Morrision; and Tom Normand from School of Art History, St Andrews University.

A strong argument came from Malcolm Maclean’s Saturday morning session 'Out of the Invisible: The role of the visual-arts in re-imagining Gaelic Scotland'. In presenting historical events that dealt with the promotion of Gaelic language through visual art, Maclean put forward ideas on how artists can project change through media coverage and a public voice.
He commented: "The blank canvas of giving artists full license to realise their ideas whilst working with the Gaelic language – Proiseact nan Ealan’s foremost ethos – in turn allows an effective politicisation of ideas… a slow-burner effect of instilling social and political movement." Foundation funding was this year withdrawn from Proiseact nan Ealan by Creative Scotland.

The importance of history
Craig Richardson’s Saturday afternoon talk, ‘Scottish Art since 1960’ discussed historical definitions of Scottish contemporary art in light of post-modernism, Thatcherism and devolution – all reference points that were brought together in the conference to promote 2014’s independence vote, and to politicise the creative act.

Anchoring social change to artists' responses, Richardson stated: "An insurance policy for Scottish artists is the knowledge of their recent art history, a record of which has been difficult to trace in a British sense… to look at the topology of Scottish visual art since 1960 unearths either exclusion or inclusion – a predicament the artists’ national confidence will face in upcoming political shifts."

Ewan Morrison’s later talk, 'The role of great art and art education in social transformation', questioned whether social change is indeed possible through the work of artists. He instead suggested that such tasks should be left to politicians. He said: "Artists feel the need to symptomatically respond to politics, yet successful practitioners have responded instead with entrepreneurship in order to survive."

With many artists now avoiding the art market to pursue alternative ways to make a living, context-specific work is realisable, as are socially engaged projects that look to the community. Yet this type of work is clearly dependent on funding.

Much focus was brought back to Creative Scotland’s role. It was characterised as a product of decisions made by governmental shifts ignorant of Scotland’s international cultural standing and overly focused on activity in the central belt (Edinburgh and Glasgow). The overiding message of Changin' Scotland was that the change brought about by being an independent nation would allow for inclusivity, rather than exclusivity.

'Changin’ Scotland – The Role of the Arts, Culture and Identity in Scotland' took place 2-4 November, in Ullapool, Scotland.

Images from the event can be viewed on the AHM blog:

Friday, 9 November 2012

Tramway World Cafe event

The Tramway World Cafe event on 31 October 2012 at Tramway, Glasgow was an open opportunity for artists, practitioners and people who care about the arts and cultural sector in Scotland to come together for a discussion about the future of our community in the next 10 years.

It was stimulated by the public and private discussions that have been happening about our main public funding body, Creative Scotland.

It was set up to be artist and practitioner focused. Questions were posed, and answers sought. Recommendations were made, and a constructive approach was adopted so as to offer possibilities rather than purely making complaints.

The papers presented and presentations made can be viewed online at the following blog:

Tuesday, 6 November 2012

An Ode to Creative Work

Although I don't agree fully with all that is said, there are some real truths that deserve to be told.

Behind every great advancement, in every industry, there is a creative mind. 

Creativity may come easy, but creation is hard. 

The late nights spent trying, and failing, and trying again. 

All the while, holding onto our vision.

Pushing what we see in our mind's eye into the world. 

But our brilliance is being held captive by forces around us and within us. 

Middle men who play us down while marking us up.

Not giving us credit. Getting us to work for free. 

And worse, we get in the way of our own success.

We rely on chance encounters. We’re disorganized and isolated, liable to go unnoticed. 

We can do better. 

When creative minds come together, the sum exceeds all expectations.

We connect, we learn, we critique, and we prosper. 

It's not about money or fame, it's about doing what we love.

It's about creating our greatest work on our own terms.

It’s about realizing that creativity is not just an opportunity - it's a responsibility. 

Here's to unleashing our full potential.

For us, and for the world that awaits what we will do next; Take creative control.